BCC ’17: The Valiant ICONS Panel With Matt Kindt, Rafer Roberts, Dinesh Shamdasani, Hunter Gorinson

by Hannah Means Shannon

At the Valiant ICONS panel at Baltimore Comic-Con 2017, Hunter Gorinson, Dinesh Shamdasani, Matt Kindt, and Rafer Roberts took the stage to talk about current and upcoming books.

Talking about X-O Manowar, Kindt said the “plan for the first year” was to strip down the character in the first year, and then have things building in this next arc. But having a barbarian as an Emperor might not work out that well. Kindt is working with Clayton Crain again for the first time since Rai, and he’s delighted to work together again.

There’s a “full on alien invasion storyline” in this arc, Gorinson said, and Kindt commented on the bounty hunters who are coming into the plot as part of the goal of unseating Aric as emperor.

Issues 7, 8, and 9 follow the “Emperor” storyline, but for issue #10, a standalone, drawn by Renato Guedes, features new alien races. The characters were designed by Kenneth Rocafort. Issue #7 is also a jumping on point for new readers and comes out next week, alongside the series’ first volume trade.

One of the challenges with X-O is that he’s so powerful, so they had to design characters who could go up against him, Kindt said, in these bounty hunters. Kindt said that a race of robots, of which the previous character Ginger was a member, and one of those robots is also part of this plot hunting down Aric.

Asked how he planned things out for X-O, Kindt said they are almost through a whole year of their planning, and the next sixth months will “explode a lot of things” they’ve set up, building up over time.

Bloodshot Salvation is now running, a series where we find Ray Garrison settling down with his partner and daughter, and our second storyline follows the lives of Magic and Jessie in the future on the run, and the reader has to piece together what’s happened to cause this. The book introduces a number of creepy villains, including Rampage, Daddy, and some Deadside villains.

Over the course of Bloodshot Reborn, writer Jeff Lemire kind of “broke down” the character and “built” him back up. Now with Bloodshot Salvation, we get kind of a tour of the Valiant Universe. Over the first year of the new series, the first arc will introduce elements, then a second arc heads into the Deadside, then the third arc ventures into 4001 AD territory.

Harbinger Renegade is “building toward a larger event”, Rafer Roberts said, meaning Harbinger Wars 2. You need an “instigating event”, like in issue #5, an attack of American citizens against an American group, to start this off. People are “scarred” by these events and that causes different reactions that increase the stakes and emotional impact of the story, Roberts said.

Harbinger Renegade #0 is arriving in November following issue #8 and is kind of an “epilog” to the previous arc and is drawn by Juan Jose Ryp. We see how HARDCORPS has been affected by the events of issue #5 and their hunt for Alexander Solomon comes to a head in that issue, Roberts said. It’s going to feature some major revelations about Alexander Solomon’s master plan, Gorinson teased.

Faith the Future Force is unlike anything they’ve published before, Gorinson said, and Shamdasani explained the “fun” aspects of the book, which brings together characters who have never met before across timelines. It’s a “giant time-travel mystery”, he said. Also, watch out for the “big twist at the end”. It’s a very “superheroey” book, Gorinson added.

Eternity #1 is also coming up, originating in the “break out” concepts that arose from the Divinity series written by Matt Kindt. Now, we’re looking at the next part of Divinity’s story, and looking into “The Unknown”, the source of his god-like powers. The “craziest stuff that we can come up with” is in the book, Kindt said, and draws on the craziness of Jack Kirby’s cosmic stuff.

Working with Trevor Hairsine, Kindt can tell he’s having a “great time on it”, and can handle the crazy scripts coming in. Asked if he always knew the source of Divinity’s powers, Kindt said yes, he has always known the “reason behind it”, but never knew how much would be revealed to the reader. He wasn’t sure if showing The Unknown was ever something that should happen, but knew that if they did, they would need to “blow it out and make it crazy”.

Kindt is writing issue #3 right now, and found himself on an airplane spending two hours just making a character list of those appearing in the book. There’s so many, they might not all make it into the story. He feels like he’s writing Tolkien’s Silmarillion with cosmic elements.

Asked how Eternity factors into the Valiant Universe, Shamdasani said that the Valiant Universe has always been “science-fiction based” and that’s the same box Eternity is playing in. It’s fun to put these characters on this playing field, but also to go back, over time, exploring and “building out” these characters and this territory.

Moving on to talk about Ninja-K, written by Christos Gage and drawn by Tomas Giorello, the idea that Ninjak is one of several Ninjas in a series is central to the book. We’ll be moving from Ninja “A” (just called Ninja) through Ninja B, C, and so on.

We have different styles of Ninja and time periods, doing homage to different films and more, as the series progresses. Someone is killing off the older, retitred, Ninjas, and Ninja-K is on that list, so he has to track down the killer, Shamdasani said. The initial issue will be fifty pages of storytelling, including a ten page prelude telling the history of the Ninja program, he said.

Throughout the series, there will also be various standalone issues that tell the origin and experiences of particular ninjas in the program.

Talking about Quantum and Woody, returning this winter, there will be a goat, brothers, and an ice cream truck in issue #1. In the beginning of the arc, we will flash back and forth between events one year ago and the current day when the brothers aren’t talking. There’s a special goat issue coming up, a “goatackular”, Gorinson said.

There will be EXTREME ULTRA-FOIL variant covers for Quantum and Woody, and after Valiant hunted down companies who did foil covers in the 90’s, these books will actually be published with the foil residual from comics published in the 90’s, according to Gorinson. There will also be retailer variants with even “crazier foils” as chase variants.

But they also took things too far with the “Most Variant Cover Of All Time”, containing 8 different gimmicks. It’s the first time in comics history these elements have been combined, especially the “goat bite die cut”. Even if they had only combined 4 elements, it would be the most variant cover of all time, but instead they have 8.

Secret Weapons is also going to be “revisited” with a zero issue this winter, by Eric Heisserer and Adam Pollina. This zero issue is a “character study” of Nikki Finch. We get to see the process of becoming recruited by Toyo Harada, of being “activated” and discovering what your powers are. We see a tragic but uplifting story of this character’s difficult path to the present day.

Finishing up by talking about Harbinger Wars 2, Gorinson said it’ll be written by Matt Kindt and Eric Heisserer, and drawn by Thomas Giorello and Raul Allen. Kindt said that it’s the “largest scope” of anything he’s yet worked on in the Valiant Universe, and it’s a “daunting story”. More information may be released ahead of New York Comic Con, Gorinson teased.

Shamdasani said the structure of the story is going to be surprising to readers, and it’s “twice as big” as one might expect, written by two writers and drawn by two artists.

During the Q&A, Kindt said that he doesn’t want to leave the character Divinity, so even after the Eternity series, there will be more, but that’s not really planned out yet. He also said that any character he creates, however minor, has extensive backstory that can be told at some point.

Gorinson said Doctor Mirage is coming back, which resulted in a round of applause.

But also big news was Dinesh Shamdasani’s announcement that there will be a Ninjak vs. the Valiant Universe comic series coming in January 2018, tying into their live action digital series.